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Now's the Time for a Project

As we face potential lockdown and even possible martial law on the horizon(!), for the sake of our collective sanity, we should all find something to keep us occupied.

We all have things that we “never have time for”. Whether it’s that wall that never gets painted or the book still sitting on our nightstand, the universe has given us (in all of this mess) the gift of time. The government has said a lot about maintaining our mental health during this unprecedented situation, so let’s see what we can do to keep our brains ticking over.

What have you been putting off or wanting to do around the house? Today, I braved B&Q to pick up some painting materials. I haven’t decorated my house in a decade and trust me, generally, I would have hired a nice man (or woman) to do it. But now that’s not possible. And I have been putting it off because a) it’s a hassle and b) I haven’t had time to be around whilst they do it and c) I never really wanted to spend the money to hire someone. But I am a capable woman. I own a paint roller. So I’ve bought some emulsion and sugar soap and I am going to paint my living room! How hard can it be, right?

DIY is a great thing to get stuck into, no matter how small the project and with the joys of How To… videos on YouTube, we can watch and learn. Just be careful, as A&E have their hands full at the moment...

Speaking of learning, what about retraining? So many of us are facing redundancy or have been furloughed for an indefinite period of time. And let’s be honest, few of us have jobs that we leap out of bed for in the morning. Having recently retrained, I can tell you that now I do leap out of bed for my job - even though I am unable to do it in person right now - so what would get you out of bed? Is there something that you can retrain for online? In the age of almost limitless technology, could you become a graphic designer or a nutritionist or a counsellor? Could you finally start an online degree course or MBA through distance learning, so that when we get back to normal, your prospects are enhanced? I am still studying lots of advanced anatomy for Pilates, so that I can keep training to specialise in rehab.

If you don’t want a qualification, what about learning a new language? Let’s communicate better with other human beings once we can travel again! Or play an instrument; drive the neighbours potty with that old trumpet...

For several years, I was working my way through the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I have always been an avid reader and I found some books I loved and others I hated, but reading is so rewarding no matter what you pick up. Find that book you have forgotten about, or never had enough time for, in the pile on your nightstand or bookshelf and indulge yourself in someone else’s world for a while. What a perfect time to seek a little escapism. One of my favourite books is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s so wonderful that I have read it four times! But there are around 40 characters all named either José Arcadio or Aurelio Buendia so it takes a bit of concentration. This enforced leisure is a great time to pick it up. Or whatever genre floats your boat. Ask your friends, check the best books lists and go for it. Amazon is still delivering…slowly. Or have you got a book in you? They say everyone has one. Why not try writing?

My stepmother has a 3,000 piece puzzle of a classical painting (I can’t remember which one) that she has been putting off for four years! Now she is looking at a senior twelve-week lockdown, she is finally getting it out of the box. I did the last one with her and we would lose three or four hours at a time putting it together. If you don’t fancy a puzzle, what about gifting one to an isolated, elderly loved one? They are great for kids too, if you feel that they are having too much screen time. There are loads of different types of puzzles, not just jigsaws. I cannot leave a crossword undone, but I have never managed a cryptic one. I am told that there is a whole method and you need a book to teach you. Why not give that a try? Crosswords, Codewords and Sudoku are brilliant for keeping the mind fresh and active. They will rejuvenate brain functions, improve mental health and relieve stress. Not to mention that seeking out those trickier answers means you might learn something!

Are you a bit creative? I am a concept person - loads of ideas - but totally incapable of drawing so much as a stickman, but maybe you are the next Lucien Freud or Dali waiting to shine. Can you make something? Have you got a sewing machine gathering dust that is aching to be used? Who knows, maybe you could give Chanel a run for their money. I think that glass blowing at home might be tricky, but you get the idea.

How about expanding your cooking repertoire? You all know by now that I am obsessed with all things edible and will literally go to the ends of the earth to eat something that I have never tried before. With the country having gone totally bananas for pasta - which isn’t nutritionally that valuable - can you be more imaginative and experimental with your cooking? Back away from the pasta and see what else you can concoct. I gave you a few recipes for crisis cooking last week (see the article here), but get that cookbook off the shelf. Turn yourself into Heston Blumenthal and your kitchen into the Fat Duck, even for a day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just tasty and it should make you happy. It’s also a great thing to do with the kids - get them to try as they make - take the mystery out of it. It’s amazing what their palates will tolerate if they have had a hand in it.

Finally, rediscover your music. I am of the generation that had CDs and tapes and used to sit in front of my stereo with the inlays for the lyrics singing along, admiring the artwork, or spending hours making the perfect mixtapes for my mood or the boy that I liked. (I loved it when I got one too). We are so used to streaming one song at a time: “Alexa, play Beyoncé...” that we leave our old favourites on the shelf. We forget the beauty of an album. One of my rediscoveries is The Heroin Diaries by Sixx AM. It is designed to be listened to sequentially, as the whole thing is a story. What music have you forgotten about? Introduce your kids to your classics. Make a mix (if you have the tech) that speaks to you. Dance around the living room, sit on the sofa and have a cry to that break-up song, remember where you were when this track or the other was playing and what it meant at the time. You may be surprised at the range of emotions that come through those speakers.

At no other time in our adult lives are we likely to have this much time on our hands. Don’t spend it twiddling your thumbs. I hope that this might provide a little bit of inspiration. Why don’t you leave me comments with some of the things that you are up to or with other ideas? I would love to hear from you.

Stay safe and well. Stay active. Be excited.

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